My body changes
Cancer patients can experience a range of physical changes during and after treatment. Some common problems are discussed below. If you would like more information about managing these or any other problems, please consult your health professional and Solaris Cancer Care for further support.
Common body changes from cancer
- Scars from surgery, or loss of a body part
- Hair loss from radiation therapy or chemotherapy
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Pain from the cancer or its treatment
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mouth sores
- Fever, which could be a sign of an infection
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Body image changes
- Fertility and sexual function
Everyone has a picture in their mind of the way they look. Good, bad, or somewhere in between, we can’t help but feel something in connection with our body image. However, body image goes beyond our perceived level of attractiveness. How comfortable we feel in our bodies and how in control we feel over their functions play an important role in how we see ourselves. When that changes because of something like cancer, a person’s entire identity can seem to be altered as well. Coping with these changes is part of dealing with cancer.
Cancer and its treatment can also affect the normal changes your body goes through. For example, in young adults, cancer or its treatment can slow down your growth, affect your menstrual cycle, or make acne more difficult to treat.
Coping with changes to your body
You might be sad or angry about physical changes. They might be depressing or even frightening. Give yourself time and space to grieve and get upset when you need to. Here are some ways to help you cope with the changes.
- Talking with your doctor and knowing what to expect can help you prepare for any physical changes that might happen during or after treatment.
- Ask other people how they adjusted to body changes. Joining a support group or talking to a cancer survivor or counsellor. Read More about Support Groups.
- Be prepared for questions and comments about your appearance. Think about how you will respond. If you prefer not to talk about it, tell people that it is personal.
Remember that cancer cannot take away your personality, interests, or talents. You might even discover a new talent or strength.
- Eat healthy and get enough sleep. Ask your doctor about drinking alcohol and any limits on your diet. Read More about Nutrition.
- Get regular exercise. Sometimes, you might not be able to do all the activities that you did before cancer. But there may be new types of exercise and activities for you to explore. Trying a new activity can help you gain confidence in your body. Ask your doctor about any limits on your physical activity. Read More about Exercise.
- Protect your skin from the sun. Cancer treatment might make it more sensitive.
- Let your health care team know about your concerns and questions.